It's another Monday

Good morning!

The sun is up now and very bright. It was definitely a bit cool this morning on my trek into work, but warmer than yesterday morning. Looks like we may be in for a bit of an Indian Summer this week as we approach low 60's by Thursday. Weather was really nice yesterday, especially when we went over to the meeting at the Organic Farm in New Town. Not very many people attended unfortunately, but they did bring out a fire pit and as we discussed issues for our district. Basically, we're going to see some cutbacks in some of the fun activities because the economy is sucking for the housing industry. Big shock there. I will be disappointed if we don't have the whole shebang for July 4th. But as was brought up, this is the city of St. Charles' 200th anniversary, so the the city is planning on a number of things this year. And if you are in the St. Charles area, the Elm Street reconstruction is FINALLY done. Huzzah!

This morning Citigroup announced some massive layoffs coming. They are planning on slashing their global workforce by around 50,000 in the short-term to help shrink costs after taking on huge losses to their business. Unfortunately, I have one close friend that works in the IT support group over there. He'll find out this morning what the restructing is going to do. Not exactly on his list of things to be looking for a new job in today's economy. Especially, since he really likes his current job and does it well.

I'm aiming to talk about transit a lot this week and the lack of it in St. Charles. We did have the opportunity to extend Metrolink through St. Charles but was voted down in the mid-1990's. Based on the election (in which the 'No' vote was only separated from the 'Yes' vote by less than 2% and only garnered about 25% of possible voters) the East-West Gateway group and Metro decided that St. Charles residents didn't really want Metro at all. Subsequently, Metro bus service to St. Charles city/county was also stopped as part of the vote decision not to fund Metro operations in St. Charles. The following year, St. Louis county also failed to pass a funding bill for metro which would have brought a cross-county line much sooner than it eventually did. Durning the construction of the cross-county line there were many questions about how money was being spent and with the refusal of Metro to submit to audits, St. Louis county stopped a large part of their funding of Metro.

During this past election cycle, Metro was trying to get prop M passed which would have brought St. Louis county payments back into the system and additionally create funds for another county line, which the county really wants to go toward Westport Plaza. It didn't pass, in my opinion, because of the same ill-will that is still left off from the cross-county line debacle. There are still a lot of questions to be answered by Metro before people are going to be comfortable giving them a lot more money. They talked tough the last time they had a tax increase on the ballot about cutbacks in service if it failed. The proposal failed to pass at the ballot box, but budget cutbacks didn't happen. This time, Metro has announced their budget cuts, and it isn't going to be pretty for a lot of the people that really depend on Metro to get around town.

This is all part of the background floating around St. Charles and its approach to mass transit. The city (and county for that matter) have indicated that if mass transit does come to fruition in St. Charles, they do not want Metro handling it. They also want to have very strict budget process to control costs and keep an eye on whomever is running it. That's good so far as it goes. We've still got to get over this pariochal attitude that people seem to have in St. Charles, that the only people that ride mass transit come from somewhere else and they will come here to rob us. You have got to get a grip. There are a lot of white-collar employees and blue-collar employees that would take full advantage of mass transit if it is available. I don't think you are ever going to get rid of crime, but what the heck is supposed to prevent people that are set on perpetrating crime from using a car to commit it?

It seems worth pointing out that it is easy to armchair quarterback what is going on with Metro. It is a quite different thing to try to get good information and attempt to devise a plan that works well for everybody (or at least as many people as you can). A survey conducted by the American Management Association indicated that "as much as 70% of all business decisions are bad ones." You only have to look as far as New Coke, Tyco, Enron, WorldCom and the subprime mortgage crisis to see there are huge examples of business "duh moments" to around. But that doesn't mean that sitting on our hands is the correct decision either. Not making a decision is still making a decision.

Our population is aging, gas prices are currently low ($1.76 this morning and it wasn't that long ago that they were bouncing between $3.50 and $4.00), employees are unable to find affordable housing near where they work, and the economy is struggling to keep moving. Having an effective and reliable transit system is both necessary and vital to our economic interests, not to mention the long-term growth strategy of the city of St. Charles. No, there is no good time to increase taxes, whether the economy is growing or slowing. But the decisions we make today will shape the future of our city for the short and long-term future.

And given that the economy is struggling, we must come together as a community. All of us. Frenchtown, the Historic District, North 94 corridor, New Town, Charlestowne, Whether you're in Ward 10, Ward 6, or somewhere else, we have to come together and make this work. In the future, riders will choose to use the system because of higher gas prices, where they live versus where they work, if the system works for their schedule and mobility needs, and if it goes where they need it to go. Don't be disillusioned, yes, gas prices are not going to stay this low, they will be going back up. Will we learn our lesson this time? The choice is ours. We can either start to work towards a community transit plan or just let it go until it is too late to do anything except to turn the lights out.

IT News for this morning follows:

A combination approach could be the best solution to malware threats

A combination of the best features of locally running systems with security services running in the cloud would be an ideal solution to beat malware threats.


Attacks on networks are increasing in size and frequency

Malicious attacks on networks are continuing to grow.


McColo shutdown won't stop spam, malware

Increased cooperation among security researchers and ISPs are resulting in victories against spammers and botnet operators. But, cybercriminals move to new spots on the Internet.


FBI tried to lure Half Life 2 hacker to the US

Valve, the US games developer, in co-operation with the FBI, tried to use a job offer to lure the German Axel "Ago" Gembe to the US in order to apprehend him there


Passwords snooped on during break-in to TYPO3.org web server

Attempts by password thieves to use the stolen passwords to access other web sites are already being reported. Users who use the same passwords on other sites and TYPO3.org are being urged to change them


Intrepid iPhone developers bypass security for functionality

The Apple iPhone is vulnerable to a new bug related to the signing of iPhone applications. Applications that are created with the official iPhone SDK need to be cryptographically signed by the author and Apple before they’re allowed into the App store or installed on an iPhone. The digital signing is a security measure that serves two purposes; helping to identify the developer in case of any problems and making sure that an approved application hasn’t been modified.


Researchers Find Flaws In Microsoft VoIP Apps

Vulnerabilities could lead to denial-of-service attacks, researchers say


Standards Come to Anti-malware Testing

Security industry organization AMTSO develops high-quality guidelines to help vendors, analysts and publications test anti-malware products in a fair and thorough way.


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Cyber-crime Edition Slideshow Summary

Software pirates are winning the battle against vendors on the high seas of the Internet. Such activity costs the software industry billions of dollars. V.i. Laboratories, which specializes in anti-piracy technology for software, took eWEEK on a brief tour of the piracy underworld. Here is a look at a piece of the software pirate economy.


Taking COBOL to the Cloud

Micro Focus is gearing up to help enterprises move their legacy COBOL applications to the cloud, first on Microsoft’s Windows Azure and then...who knows? With its ongoing relationship with Microsoft, Micro Focus has helped enterprises migrate mainframe-based COBOL applications to Windows and .NET and now is targeting the cloud.


The New Washington Tech Agenda

President-elect Barack Obama brings a decidedly different technology agenda to the White House than President Bush did eight years ago. Widely considered the most tech-savvy president ever elected, Obama sees an activist government – tinkering here, readjusting there and spending here, here and here – as the path to innovation and the future.


Review: CoolIT USB Beverage Chiller

Are you the type that enjoys your beverage cold—the ones that fill the beverage cup with ¾ full of ice? If so, CoolIT Beverage Chiller is the perfect gift for you. The Beverage Chiller is powered by a five foot long USB cable and plugs into any USB port, desktop or laptop. The Chiller looks like an iPod charger with a small intake fan on the side. But does it work?


Unhappy people watch more telly

The University of Maryland has concluded that "unhappy people watch more TV", while those who reckon they're "very happy" tend to pass the time reading or socializing.


'Meh' makes Collins English Dictionary

The interjection "meh" has beaten "frenemy", "huggles" and "jargonaut" for inclusion in the 30th anniversary edition of the Collins English Dictionary following an invitation to the unwashed masses to submit neologisms reflecting the current state of play with our beloved mother lingo.


Obama inaugurates YouTube-side chats

US President-elect Barack Obama plans to use YouTube to modernize the traditional White House weekly radio address.

In addition to audio, Obama will for the first time release a video recording of the Democratic address this Saturday, his office said today. The video will be posted to Obama's transition site, Change.gov.


Microsoft nobbled ‘Vista-Capable’ for Intel

High-ranking Microsoft and Intel executives were involved in a plan to re-write the Windows Vista Capable program to save both companies - and OEMs - millions of dollars, according to unsealed court documents.


Motrin screws up in Tweet-land

This is a little off-topic for CG at least, but I’m actually amazed at the audacity of Motrin in drumming up their little social networking play aimed at Mommy bloggers. The video itself looks like they took something from column A that could cause pain (”Baby slings!”) and added a body part (”Backs!”) and got Motrin.


Flash Is Now A Platform, AIR Gets An Upgrade, And Adobe Puts A Catalyst In Gumbo

Realizing that Flash is a better name than Flex for a platform, Adobe is now referring to everything it does related to Flash (including the Flash Player, Adobe AIR, Flex developer tools, and Flash media servers) as the Flash Platform. That’s what I’ve been calling it anyway, so I’m glad they finally caught up.


AOL Gets Out Of User Generated Video Business

AOL is on a product-cutting spree. In addition to the shuttering of XDrive, AOL Pictures, MyMobile And Bluestring, the company will also be shutting down the AOL Video Uploads service starting this week.


Twitter’s Hockey Stick Moment

October was a good month for Twitter. All those election Tweets brought a 25 percent increase in U.S. visitors from the month before, to 1.45 million unique visitors, according to comScore. (Worldwide, the number was 5.6 million in September). Since January, Twitter has experienced a 16-fold growth in the U.S. And that is just visitors to Twitter.com. These numbers don’t count all the people who send and read Tweets from other Websites, desktop apps, or their mobile phones.


Is Obama Ready To Be A Two-Way President?

Where there’s victory, there’s also opportunity…

This Presidential election was profound in its results. Obama won both the Electoral College vote 364 to 163 and the popular vote 53% to 46% with roughly 120,000,000 votes cast. This election was the first in 50 years, in which there was no incumbent President or Vice President from either party competing for the Presidential nomination. Close to 65% of the American population voted in this election, its highest turnout since the election of 1908.


AMD Steers Clear Of 'Netbook' Market

The chipmaker differentiates its Yukon strategy from Intel's Atom processor line by targeting ultraportables and not netbooks/mini-notebooks.


HP, Dell Results Due As Economic Crisis Worsens

Investors will be looking for signs of whether Dell will cut prices to gain market share and how HP plans to further diversify.


Consumer Electronics Show Preview: CES 2009 Gadget Gallery

Check out 50 photos of the hottest new digital-video systems, smartphones, and PCs -- including SlingCatcher, Maingear's media center, Callpod's Chargepod, and a $2,500 electronic massage chair -- in our advance look at the 2009 International CES.


AIG to Pay Millions To Top Workers

American International Group plans to pay out $503 million in deferred compensation to some of its top employees, saying it must tap the funds to keep valuable workers from exiting the troubled insurance giant.


Oil falls below $56 as Japan slips into recession

Oil prices fell below $56 a barrel Monday as news that Japan fell into recession highlighted investor fears that a global economic slowdown will hurt crude demand.


With Sun's job cuts, tech sector layoff toll in '08 hits 140,000

The economic downturn that has resulted in tens of thousands of layoffs in the housing and financial services sectors is now bearing down on the tech industry. The job cuts announced by Sun Microsystems Inc. on Friday are only the latest in the growing toll.


Apple plays catch-up, adds anti-fraud safeguard to Safari

Apple yesterday added anti-phishing protection to Safari, the last major browser to receive the feature that blocks known identity-stealing sites. The company also patched 11 security bugs in the program, the bulk of them specific to the Microsoft Windows version.


Spam drop could boost Trojan attacks

The dramatic fall in spam traffic reported last week after alleged rogue ISP McColo was taken offline will only be a temporary reprieve and could actually generate a new wave of Trojans, experts have warned.


Emails reveal HP's anger at Vista marketing

An HP executive was furious at Microsoft over the company's decision to loosen the requirements for its "Vista Capable" marketing campaign, internal emails unsealed by a federal judge have shown


Trend Micro fleshes out email encryption line

Trend Micro has released a gateway appliance for large enterprises as the final piece in its new encryption line up.


New seed shows Apple near wrap-up of Mac OS X 10.5.6

A quickly released follow-up test build of Mac OS X 10.5.6 comes with no known problems and points to Apple getting much closer to a finished patch.


Apple sued over hairline cracks in iPhone 3G casings

Apple is facing yet another lawsuit over the performance of its iPhone 3G on AT&T's network but with added allegations that the company is ignoring the occurrence of hairline cracks in the handset's enclosure.


FOIA docs show feds can lojack mobiles without telco help

Documents obtained by civil liberties groups suggest the feds can track cell phone locations without the help of providers


Army to Part with 'Weapon of Choice?'

After pressure from Congress -- and a scathing cover story in Army Times -- it looks as if the Army may finally part ways with the M4 carbine -- or at least consider the alternatives.


Intel Core i7 chip launches in Tokyo

The desktop processor represents the vanguard of Intel's new Nehalem microarchitecture.


Google patches Chrome file-stealing bug

Google Inc. has patched Chrome to prevent attackers from stealing files from PCs running the open-source browser.


A sneaky security problem, ignored by the bad guys

Frank Boldewin had seen a lot of malicious software in his time, but never anything like Rustock.C.


Sprint Asking for Layoff Volunteers

Cost cutting measures take all kinds of shapes at the wireless carrier along with early retirement offers


What if The Matrix ran on Windows? Whoa.


Xbox 360 Far Ahead Of PlayStation 3 This October

The PlayStation 3 was once again left behind by its main green rival in the sales race. Somebody better be ready with a new marketing campaign.


First Look: NMobile for iPhone

If you find yourself running into police speed traps often, then you might want to give a new iPhone app a try. NMobile [iTunes link] allows you to locate speed traps, red light cameras, and radar locations. All of these speed detection devices are mapped out on a Microsoft Live map -- this is one of the first native uses of Microsoft Live Maps on the iPhone



Darrell said...

Dear Randy:

Your insights are dead on. But untill the last drop of oil is sucked from the ground and last pound of coal is dug out the earth, public transit in the St. Louis area will always face problems.

In regards to your earler post about LRT Vs Buses. Bues will always be the first pick for public transit systems due to costs. LRT systems when you get down to it, is a railroad and as such it still is subject to large capital and labor costs inherent to a railroad.

As to the LRT Vs Bus in "Green" game. Buses can run on cleaner fuels (Biodeasl, CNG/LNG, H2) or use electric drives. Trying to sell LRT on just its green transit cred is weak arugument.


YatPundit said...

interesting thoughts on transit! your last commenter is right about buses being first choice, although they turn out to be more expensive in the long run. The average life of a bus that costs $250-$400K is 6 years. A streetcar or LRV will have a lifetime of 75 years.

one thing about your article that struck me was the notion of "cross-county." is there a potential racial element to that?

DigitalCaffeine said...

Darrell, buses will probably always be the easy route. The problem with buses over a fixed rail system is that buses won't help build community. Studies have shown that where there is a fixed rail system, there will be transit related developments near to stops. In long run, fixed rail helps build tax money for the city as well as moving people around town. The best of both worlds, in my opinion, would be to have a buses feed into a trolley/streetcar system.

DigitalCaffeine said...

yatpundit, the cross-county extension (also know as the Shrewsbury line) is a spur off the main line. I think the primary objective was to hook Washington University, Clayton (business district and County Gov't center), and tentatively reach into South St. Louis county drivers. I don't think there was a really racial component to the decision to build out the line as it is, although they could have gotten more south county drivers if it had been extended farther south than it is.

To my knowledge, this line didn't utilize any federal funds that were available and relied on all local funds. The biggest problems came in when they ran into major cost overruns due to starting the project with an incomplete plan.

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